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Acta Oncol. 2002;41(4):346-51.

Pathogenesis of cognitive decline following therapeutic irradiation for head and neck tumors.

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Cognitive decline is a significant but largely unrecognized sequela following irradiation for several head and neck tumors, particularly cancer of the nasopharynx and paranasal sinuses. In this article the cellular mechanisms of radiation-induced vascular damage in the temporal lobe and its effects on the medial temporal lobe memory systems are described. Recognition of the mechanisms and site of the injury should permit the use of treatment planning systems, such as 3-dimensional (3-D) conformal and intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) techniques, to spare large volumes of the temporal lobe from receiving a high dose. Furthermore, the emerging concepts of vascular irradiation damage as an inflammatory fibroproliferative response to endothelial injury may permit the application of measures directed at inhibiting the expression of proinflammatory genes and thus mitigate the inflammatory response. Moreover, comorbid factors such as hypertension, diabetes, lipidemia, obesity and smoking are known to promote atherogenesis and therefore may exacerbate radiation-induced vascular damage. Control of these factors may also reduce the incidence and severity of this sequela.

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